Civil society groups want politicians facing corruption charges barred from contesting in the August 9 elections.
Through a petition at the High Court, the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Transparency International, Inuka Kenya ni Sisi and activist Wanjiru Gikonyo accused the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) of lowering the integrity bar by making it easy for politicians with questionable character to contest.
They want the High Court to stop IEBC from clearing any aspirant facing criminal and corruption charges and an order for the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to vet them before issuing them with clearance certificates.
“We are concerned that in previous elections, some candidates who facing charges in court or under investigations on abuse of office, corruption and breach of public trust were cleared to vie and the same is likely to occur again unless the court intervenes,” said the civil groups. They want a declaration that any person charged with corruption case is unfit to hold public office and that any individual found by EACC to have breached the integrity test should not be cleared to contest.
Should the petitioners succeed, several politicians facing corruption charges could be barred from contesting and holding political office until their cases are concluded.
Among those contesting despite facing corruption charges are former Nairobi governors Evans Kidero and Mike Sonko, Garissa Governor Ali Korane, his Tharaka Nithi counterpart Muthomi Njuki, Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi.
The activists’ petition comes a week after IEBC told the court that they cannot bar any candidate with integrity issues from contesting based on the 2013 court decision which cleared President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto despite facing criminal charges. IEBC Director for Legal and Public Affairs Chrispine Owiye said they have no reason to depart and contradict the judgement which found that any accused person is presumed innocent and can only be locked from contesting if convicted.
However, the human rights organisations in the suit filed through Muriu, Mungai and Company advocates argued that the commission confused constitutional provisions on leadership and integrity and what is required to clear a candidate.
“The Constitution has created ways to deal with historical and continuing culture of corruption and impunity. There are standards required for anyone seeking public office and we see no reason why the commission is hesitant to enforce it,” said the petitioners.
They want the court to give powers to EACC, Kenya Revenue Authority and the Director of Criminal Investigations to vet any aspirant with criminal record and recommend to IEBC not to clear them.